365 days of gratitude

June 21, 2018

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

At 10:07 tonight NZ time, the sun will be at its northern most point.

Tomorrow won’t be noticeably lighter and we often get more wintry weather after the solstice than before it.

But day by day the days will be getting lighter and I’m grateful for that.


A healthy baby girl

June 21, 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford have a  daughter.

. . .The baby arrived at 4.45pm, weighing 3.31kg.

Ms Ardern said they were “all doing well” and thanked the team at Auckland City Hospital. . .

The safe arrival of a healthy baby is lovely news.


Word of the day

June 21, 2018

Aphelion – the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is furthest from the sun; the point farthest from the sun in the path of an orbiting celestial body.


Rural round-up

June 21, 2018

Shearing the way to land ownership for record-breaking shearers Rowly and Ingrid Smith – Kate Taylor:

Two record-breaking shearers are working their way into land ownership in Hawke’s Bay. Kate Taylor reports.

What does a champion shearer do on his days off? His own shearing.

Rowland (Rowly) and Ingrid Smith bought their 28ha block at Maraekakaho in Hawke’s Bay four and a half years ago. He’s still shearing full time but is starting a seasonal contracting business and the couple hope to buy more land in the future.

Their first few years as landowners saw all their spare cash put back into development including fencing and a new shearing shed.

They’ve since bought a 6000 square metre block down the road and plan to live there while they build a new house. . .

Drive for success in NZ apple and pear industry – Georgia May Gilbertson:

Six young people from Hawke’s Bay are on a mission to get others like them to join their world leading apple and pear industry.

They are part of a new nation-wide recruitment campaign to raise more awareness about all the new career opportunities for young Kiwis looking for a bright future with rewarding job prospects.

New Zealand Apples & Pears capability development manager Erin Simpson said job attraction is a far bigger challenge than job creation for the industry, as horticulture has, in the past, struggled to gain wider appeal. . .

Stock cartage rates likely to rise – Nigel Malthus:

 Farmers will not get stock moved if trucking companies do not get better freight rates, according to the Road Transport Forum (RTF).

“We’re at the point where people won’t get stock moved; something has to give here,” Ken Shirley, RTF chief executive told Rural News.

“All these additional biosecurity conditions and precautions we accept are necessary, but someone has to be prepared to pay for them and surely that’s the primary sector’s problem.” . . 

New Zealand’s exclusive avocado access to Australia under threat – Gerard Hutching:

Mexico, Peru and Chile are eyeing up exporting avocados to Australia, threatening New Zealand’s exclusive access to the lucrative market.

Australia is New Zealand’s number one market for avocados, worth $88 million in sales in the 2017-18 year. Total exports were $105m.

However following the signing of  the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) deal, Mexico, Peru and Chile have signalled they are keen for access to Australia in particular.

They also want to sell into New Zealand but it could take some years and would not necessarily result in cheaper avocados, Avocados NZ chief executive Jen Scoular said . .

Get ready for the ‘internet of cows’ – Ross Marowits:

Get ready for the “internet of cows.”

Generations of farmers have relied on knowledge and family expertise to grow food, but the sector is set for a surge of disruption at the hands of made-in-Canada artificial intelligence-powered systems.

AI is now helping farmers across the country to increase yields, save costs and minimize environmental damage. Instead of spreading fertilizer across acres of fields or spraying entire orchards with herbicides, they can now target their efforts for maximum effect. . .

Waving the jersey for dairying – Brad Markam:

 The life’s work of a Waikato Jersey breeder will be used to help inspire students about careers in the agri-food sector.

Sixty-one cows from the herd of the late Bobbie Backhouse have been bought by NZ Young Farmers for its Auckland dairy farm.

The 74ha property was gifted to the organisation by Donald Pearson last year.

“Bobbie Backhouse was a passionate Jersey breeder who farmed near Thames. Sadly, she passed away in early 2016,” says Donald Pearson Farm board chair Julie Pirie. . .

Industry looks to emerging agri-tech to further boost farm productivity :

Productivity on UK farms has improved significantly, according to new figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The figures, in the report ‘Total factor productivity of the UK agriculture industry’, provides the first estimate for 2017.

It shows that total factor productivity – a measure of how well inputs are converted into outputs, giving an indication of the efficiency and competitiveness of the agriculture industry – was up by 2.9 per cent last year. . . 


Thursday’s quiz

June 21, 2018

Everyone is invited to pose the questions.

Anyone who stumps us all will win a virtual chocolate cream sponge.


Winston’s dowry

June 21, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a policy cost-tracker Winston’s Dowry:

With Winston Peters now the Prime Minister, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is launching a new policy cost tracking project – to calculate the cost of Mr Peters and his Party in forming the coalition Government.

“Marriage can be expensive, but normally the guests aren’t given a bill at the end of the ceremony,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

“In a political marriage, the cost of attendance can be significant. ‘Winston’s Dowry‘ calculates the total cost to taxpayers from the demands of two-time coalition divorcée, Winston Peters.“

“Our economic staff will be updating the Dowry regularly as new vanity projects, and pork-laden policies are announced.”

“So far, Winston’s Dowry includes the Provincial Growth Fund, significant increases in spending for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Ministry of Defence, a vanity project re-branding of the Ministry for Children, and a tax credit for hot horses, among other initiatives.”

“As it stands, Winston’s Dowry is already $5.1 billion – or $2960 per New Zealand household.  With Mr Peters’ now the Prime Minister the figure could grow significantly in coming weeks. Taxpayers had better hold on tight.”

Details of Winston’s Dowry are available at www.winstonsdowry.nz.


Public servants paid too well?

June 21, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union has some facts to dampen public sector wage claims:

Over the last 25 years, public sector incomes have grown much faster than the private sector, while public sector employees also enjoy a higher rate of sick leave costing taxpayers $173 million, according to Public Sector Wage Gap: The taxpayer-funded premium for working for the government, a new report we’ve released today.

If you work for the Government, you earn a third more on average, with taxpayers footing the bill.

This report seriously undermines the public sector unions’ claim for 9-15 percent pay hikes for their members. It blows to bits claims the last Government did not pay bureaucrats enough.

The public sector pay gap nearly doubled since the 1990s. If anything, a wage freeze, not hikes, would be fairer.

Left wing activists and unions would have the public believe that the public sector has undergone nine years of neoliberal hell. But this shows that to be a lie.

Public servants generally have better job security than those in the private sector.

They are also supposed to have a commitment to public service.

Both these factors ought to be reflected in lower pay rates than in the private sector.

Key findings of the report:

  • The gap in weekly earnings between the public and private sectors has grown since 1990, from 18.9% of private sector earnings to 34.6% in 2017. The gap peaked in 2010 at 38.4%. The premium is even higher for hourly earnings (as public sector employees, on average, work fewer hours).
  • If the Government had retained a public sector earnings premium of 20%, taxpayers would save $2.5 billion per year, or $1,445 per household in lower taxes or reduced Government debt.
  • The public sector took an average of 8.6 and 8.4 days of sick leave in 2016 and 2017, compared to the private sector average of 4.7 days per year.
  • If the public sector reduced its rates of sick leave to private sector levels, the taxpayers would save $173 million per year, or approximately $100 per household per year in lower taxes, or reduced Government debt.

Is there something in the public sector that causes more sickness, are public servants less healthy than those in the private sector or is there another explanation?

The Taxpayers’ Union recommends:

  • The Government should set a goal of returning to a 20% public sector earnings premium by placing constraints on public sector wage growth and focusing on growing productivity.
  • If private sectors stagnate or decline (such as in a recession) the Government should be willing to cut public sector wages to match.

The public service is in competition for staff with the private sector.

If it wants high calibre staff it needs to pay them well but this report suggests it’s paying too well.


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